Michael Fischer


In the stucco, hilltop adult ward, The Sidewalk Schizophrenic died in his plastic-covered bed from The Spiders. “You’re crazy,” The Spiders said, and tightened the leather bed straps around his little bird chest. “I can’t breathe!” The Sidewalk Schizophrenic said, but The Spiders didn’t believe in asthma.

Before The Spiders killed him, The Sidewalk Schizophrenic had Grounds Privileges, and evenings, strolled the cracked campus sidewalk. Patients on rotting yard benches and behind wire screen windows watched The Sidewalk Schizophrenic self-smack his face to squash The Spiders that crawled under his eyelids and up his nose.

The Bird Man, a Sidewalk Schizophrenic-watcher from a rotting yard bench outside the gray geriatric ward, was the unofficial world record holder for Consecutive Days with Middle Finger Extended Upward.

“Hello, Mr. Bird Man,” The Sidewalk Schizophrenic would say, but The Bird Man would only move his bird to the beat of The Sidewalk Schizophrenic’s feet.


The yellow brick children’s ward kids would bang their day room’s wire screen window with a chess checkerboard at The Sidewalk Schizophrenic. Once, the kids banged so hard, The Spiders bit The Sidewalk Schizophrenic and he sprinted the cracked sidewalk up the hill to the adult ward.

The Sidewalk Schizophrenic was Campus Checkers Champion, and had defeated The Serial Killer in the hospital tournament three straight years. So:

Why did the kids use a chess checkerboard?

Every day, The Sidewalk Schizophrenic was sad, alone, and stuck with The Spiders: The Bird Man, the kids, and the adult ward techs who tightened the leather bed straps and didn’t believe in asthma.


After his last walk before dying, The Sidewalk Schizophrenic slipped in his plastic-covered bed and asked God what he’d done to deserve The Spiders. “My entire life,” The Sidewalk Schizophrenic said, “I’ve been Spidered.” God said, “Walk with me,” and The Sidewalk Schizophrenic fell asleep and died from The Spiders when he awoke screaming in the night at The Government Man outside his wire screen window come to get him.

Before the night The Spiders killed him, The Government Man had only visited The Sidewalk Schizophrenic in nightmares—he in his black suit and shades with a document-filled briefcase about The Sidewalk Schizophrenic’s vagrancy, bridge-squatting, hoboing, panhandling, jailbirding, foster and group home stints, and Vietnam draft years—but this night was different: The Sidewalk Schizophrenic was awake.

The Government Man banged the window and The Spiders bit The Sidewalk Schizophrenic.

“Please stop,” The Sidewalk Schizophrenic said, and then screamed and self-smacked.

The Government Man was Spidered like The Bird Man, the kids, and the room-barging techs who tightened the leather bed straps and yelled, “Hush! You’re waking the ward!”


Before The Spiders killed The Sidewalk Schizophrenic, Carlos, the one tech who believed in asthma, was fired for Fraternizing Too Closely with Patients, and shook his head and wished The Sidewalk Schizophrenic luck before leaving forever—Carlos who understood how it crushed a person’s chest.

The Sidewalk Schizophrenic understood chest-crushing pain.

Carlos also played checkers with The Sidewalk Schizophrenic and brought him books from the library his wife ran. A book about an old man in a small skiff in the Gulf of Mexico fighting a trophy marlin for days was the Sidewalk Schizophrenic’s favorite, and he read it ten times before The Spiders killed him.


The Government Man emptied his briefcase on the plastic-covered bed, across The Sidewalk Schizophrenic’s body.

“Stop screaming!” The Spiders said, and tightened the leather bed straps.

“Please,” The Sidewalk Schizophrenic said, but it was too late: his little bird chest caved and convulsed and he was forever sad, forever alone, forever stuck with The Spiders who told him to shut up and go to sleep.


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